Advances in 4D medical imaging and 4D radiation therapy

G Li, D Citrin, K Camphausen, B Mueller, C Burman, B Mychalczak, R W Miller, Y Song
Technology in Cancer Research & Treatment 2008, 7 (1): 67-81
This paper reviews recent advances in 4D medical imaging (4DMI) and 4D radiation therapy (4DRT), which study, characterize, and minimize patient motion during the processes of imaging and radiotherapy. Patient motion is inevitably present in these processes, producing artifacts and uncertainties in target (lesion) identification, delineation, and localization. 4DMI includes time-resolved volumetric CT, MRI, PET, PET/CT, SPECT, and US imaging. To enhance the performance of these volumetric imaging techniques, parallel multi-detector array has been employed for acquiring image projections and the volumetric image reconstruction has been advanced from the 2D to the 3D tomography paradigm. The time information required for motion characterization in 4D imaging can be obtained either prospectively or retrospectively using respiratory gating or motion tracking techniques. The former acquires snapshot projections for reconstructing a motion-free image. The latter acquires image projections continuously with an associated timestamp indicating respiratory phases using external surrogates and sorts these projections into bins that represent different respiratory phases prior to reconstructing the cyclical series of 3D images. These methodologies generally work for all imaging modalities with variations in detailed implementation. In 4D CT imaging, both multi-slice CT (MSCT) and cone-beam CT (CBCT) are applicable in 4D imaging. In 4D MR imaging, parallel imaging with multi-coil-detectors has made 4D volumetric MRI possible. In 4D PET and SPECT, rigid and non-rigid motions can be corrected with aid of rigid and deformable registration, respectively, without suffering from low statistics due to signal binning. In 4D PET/CT and SPECT/CT, a single set of 4D images can be utilized for motion-free image creation, intrinsic registration, and attenuation correction. In 4D US, volumetric ultrasonography can be employed to monitor fetal heart beating with relatively high temporal resolution. 4DRT aims to track and compensate for target motion during radiation treatment, minimizing normal tissue injury, especially critical structures adjacent to the target, and/or maximizing radiation dose to the target. 4DRT requires 4DMI, 4D radiation treatment planning (4D RTP), and 4D radiation treatment delivery (4D RTD). Many concepts in 4DRT are borrowed, adapted and extended from existing image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and adaptive radiation therapy (ART). The advantage of 4DRT is its promise of sparing additional normal tissue by synchronizing the radiation beam with the moving target in real-time. 4DRT can be implemented differently depending upon how the time information is incorporated and utilized. In an ideal situation, the motion adaptive approach guided by 4D imaging should be applied to both RTP and RTD. However, until new automatic planning and motion feedback tools are developed for 4DRT, clinical implementation of ideal 4DRT will meet with limited success. However, simplified forms of 4DRT have been implemented with minor modifications of existing planning and delivery systems. The most common approach is the use of gating techniques in both imaging and treatment, so that the planned and treated target localizations are identical. In 4D planning, the use of a single planning CT image, which is representative of the statistical respiratory mean, seems preferable. In 4D delivery, on-site CBCT imaging or 3D US localization imaging for patient setup and internal fiducial markers for target motion tracking can significantly reduce the uncertainty in treatment delivery, providing improved normal tissue sparing. Most of the work on 4DRT can be regarded as a proof-of-principle and 4DRT is still in its early stage of development.

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